So, by now, the rage of video uploads to Instagram has (somewhat) died down. The week after the announcement, you can probably find a few standard photos of bacon-and-egg sandwiches in your feed, in addition to the many grainy videos. Maybe it's time to really sit down and ask ourselves, from a user's perspective: Is Instagram video a good thing?
Jenna Wortham wrote a pretty on-point reflection on the same subject for The New York Times ' Bits blog, where she touched on the fact that video just doesn't create the same polished fairytale world we've come to know and love on Instagram. When trying to capture a sunset rooftop picnic with friends, Wortham ended up with a perfectly realistic video — complete with bad lighting and a few disjointed snippets of conversation. Yes, it was an accurate representation of events, but as she points out, that's not why we have Instagram. Rather, we want to create "a well-crafted fantasy, a highlights reel of your life that shows off versions of yourself that you want to remember and put on display in a glass case for other people to admire and browse through."
That's all well and good and quite astute, but we're not sure it's a reason to write off video. The amazing thing about Instagram — and smartphones in general — is that it's given everyone the ability to achieve some sort of "expert" level of artistic photography. That's not to say that what's on Instagram is as elevated as what you see at your local gallery (though there are exceptions); in fact, it puts an even greater onus on photographers to distinguish their work from the mass medium (a challenge, but a positive one, in our book). But, it does mean that regular people have an accessible way of engaging with photography and creating, or perhaps constructing, beautiful memories. It's not unlike what happened when cameras first became affordable to the masses in the late '30s. That dovetailing of quality with quantity should have continued with digital cameras, but in a way, it declined, particularly as costly and harder-to-operate digital SLRs became the gold standard for people with a real interest in photography stretching beyond Facebook albums. Instagram has been a great equalizer and an amazing learning tool for photography — and we think it could do the same for video.
It's just a matter of time, we'd argue, until people achieve the level of expertise they previously mastered with Instagram photos. While there are still lots of people posting (let's be honest, here) crappy photos on Instagram, there are a lot more who've gone from zero photographic experience to a reasonable level of competence with color and composition. Though it might take more time and dedication, we don't see why the same isn't possible for Instagram video — especially considering you're able to apply filters. It happened on a smaller scale with Vine, and though the medium isn't identical, we saw (and are still seeing!) some very encouraging stuff on there.
Users, what do you think? Will video be the death of both Vine and Instagram? A short-lived fad doomed to fade into oblivion? Or the dawn of a new age of mass-media arts and crafts?